Timothy's Blog

Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!
OCT
22

Creative arranging

Creative arranging

Sometimes, especially in folk music and pop music, arrangers use a simple formula (‘KISS: Keep it simple, stupid,’ as they say) to present a melody or a verse-chorus pattern, and they make sure that they don’t demand anything significant of the listener.

Well, as a lifelong aficionado of Classical music, which in its best form does demand that the melody and chord structure develop in a complex way over the course of the piece, I crave creativity and depth in arrangements.  (May I say here that much folk and pop music does indeed involve creative arrangement, but some of their arrangements certainly don’t!)

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13895 Hits
SEP
06

My Dulcimer Players News "Pro-file" in 1999

My Dulcimer Players News "Pro-file" in 1999

In 1999 I wrote a personal account about my life with music up to that point and particularly in relation the hammered dulcimer.  Perhaps it will be of interest!

Click here for the archive of the article.

8923 Hits
AUG
22

Coming up with musical fill-in parts in an arrangement or improv

Coming up with musical fill-in parts in an arrangement or improv

When a musician is putting together a typical arrangement it’s good for him to 1) make sure he has a solid rhythmic pattern going, and he needs 2) a good chord structure moving along within that rhythm, and of course he needs 3) a straightforward melody.  If they’re handled with taste and skill, this group of factors combine for a fine rendition of the piece.

However, there are often long notes at key points in the melody’s progress, and players like me crave an extra voice “singing along” during those long notes (and perhaps elsewhere as well) to add interest and color.  I’ve found that there are a lot of ways to work with that, and I’m always working on these creative “fill parts,” so I thought I’d jot down a collection of ideas to consider if you want to.  Here they are!

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JUL
03

Playing to the audience --- or in your own private world

Playing to the audience --- or in your own private world

I’ve noticed that when I’m performing in front of an audience, particularly in a concert setting, there are two different modes of operation between which I fluctuate during the course of a set.  For those of you who are public performers or who are considering entering that amazing world, perhaps these will be useful concepts:

When I play some pieces, especially upbeat ones, such as my zany version of “Soldier’s Joy” or my original composition “Sycamore Rapids,” I find myself playing to the listeners --- intending to communicate the excitement of the music from myself to them.  Notice I’m not trying to merely play a tune or arrangement, or demonstrate what I can do, but rather I’m forming the perspective in my mind that I’m right there with those other people and I am sharing my own experience with them in an active and assertive way.  (And yes, I’m basically an introvert, so I find that this keeps me from getting too self-conscious --- it’s not an extroverted behavior but in reality a coping mechanism!)  With a meaningful and lively spoken introduction, I set the stage for this approach, and the audience usually gets the message easily.

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22050 Hits
JUN
18

Three kinds of tempo flow

Three kinds of tempo flow

The Italian word “tempo” means “time” --- music moving through time at a certain speed, as we generally think of it.  But it also involves how we progress through time.  Offhand, I can immediately think of three different ways in which the tempo moves.  Let’s line them out:

1)    Steadily:  Like a metronome that ticks away every beat, or, with the human element, moving along pretty nearly like a metronome but with more life to it --- this is the most common tempo motion.  In fact, Pop music recordings often utilize a studio “click track” metronome that serves as a reference during the recording process so all the instruments and voices move along together and the song can be set up to be good for dancing. Then in the final mixdown the metronome track is removed.  We all need to be able to keep this kind of flow (click track or not) and to keep it consistent, no matter what genre of music we play!  Old-Time and Bluegrass music, for example, tend to keep this consistent rhythm.  It's the easiest "groove" for an ensemble's members to keep their timing precise.

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